Helping Things Go Right

One of the (many) advantages to working at The Spark Mill is that our office is located in the Fan (2219 W. Main Street - Come visit!)  The Fan is a beautiful place!  Several afternoons a week, I take a brief walk around the neighborhood to enjoy the historic architecture and stretch my legs for few minutes…and 9 times out of 10 get an iced coffee.

As I walk, I try to notice something new every time.  Today, I noticed a bag of plastic bags. It was on someone’s fence along the sidewalk.  It holds plastic bags for dog-owners to use so they recover their dog’s poop.  Now, of all the beautiful architectural elements in the Fan, why did I notice this?  It certainly isn’t beautiful architecture.  However, it is a beautiful example of change management.  Why, you ask? Because it equips and encourages good behavior.  

Nobody likes it when a dog poops in their yard and the evidence is left behind.  It’s easy to spend time ranting and raving about people not picking it up.  It’s gross and disrespectful!  While this is true, ranting and raving does nothing to change the offending dog-owners’ behavior.  Making it easier for them to pick-up the poop just might.

In the Arbinger Institute’s book, The Anatomy of Peace, they suggest changing behavior is more effective if we use our influence “helping things go right” rather than correcting things that went wrong. Behavioral change in organizations is hard.  Forcing people to change is even harder.  The Arbinger Institute’s “Influence Pyramid” offers a model for helping things go right - by using energy and time to equip others to make healthy, good decisions. In other words, providing those bags is a better strategy to help people take their dog’s poop with them than berating them for leaving it on your lawn.

There is a famous saying, “poop happens.”  What if instead of decrying the reality of this, we equip people to deal with it?  What if instead of complaining that our volunteers, clients and customers aren’t committed, we use that energy to remove any barrier within our influence to help them be committed?  When we choose to give people tools and strategies to help facilitate and encourage good decisions and healthy behaviors, we are much more likely to see behavioral change.

Each day we choose how we spend our energy in our organizations and companies.  When we choose to help things succeed, when we equip others to deal with the “poop” they might leave behind, there will be less “poop” on our proverbial lawns.  And that may not match the incredible architecture, but it is still a thing of beauty.

How are you encouraging healthy behaviors in your organization or company?  How might Arbinger Institute’s Pyramid of Influence help?